You could say Rik Mayall only shouted and pulled faces - but what shouting, what faces!
He was a naturally funny comedian who made you laugh as soon as you saw him: he deserves to be mentioned alongside greats such as Tommy Cooper.
Rik was like a human cartoon character, pulling exaggerated expressions and stealing almost every scene he was in - even alongside great actors/characters in the Young Ones and Blackadder.
His work in the Young Ones and Dangerous Brothers was thrilling and often unexpected, while he played a more bit part role in the Comic Strip - his David Coverdale-esque, fruity voice in Bad News was probably his finest moment in that series.
For me, the Kevin Turvey sketches were among his best work and are perhaps overlooked now - the expressions, the silly wordplay (Kevin's 'ere/ear) and the silly voice.
Young Ones: People's Poet
Edinburgh Festival reviews: Tony Law, Bridget Christie, Ben Verth, Rodney Bewes, Otto Kuhnle
Sept 12: I haven’t been to the Edinburgh Festival for at least 15 years and I’d forgotten how wonderful it is.
I love the trawl through the huge programme, the planning of a schedule that will let you see as much as possible in two days, the unexpected delight of a comedian you’ve never heard of, and the city itself with its beautiful austere buildings and steep climbs.
Me and Mrs O managed five shows in all which was just about enough when you factor in booze, food and the need of a sit-down in a pub or cafe after all the walking.
I wanted to see comedians I’d never seen before who had, at least, a half-decent review. We whittled it down to Tony Law, pictured, and Bridget Christie (mainly because Stewart Lee recommended them in a Guardian article), a Best Of show of music, magic and comedy and Ben Verth.
We were tempted by Barbara Nice (played by the Phoenix Nights actress), Simon Munnery, Michael Redmond, Hanks and Conran and David O’Doherty.
As for theatre we ended up seeing Translunar Paradise and Rodney Bewes reading Dylan Thomas stories.
Tony Law was a wonderfully daft, slightly manic, cartoony fella of indistinct accent. He looked like a children’s presenter who’d been left on a desert island, with his stripy top, braces, silly haircut and pirate-y beard. He told tales of his uncle the dragon in prison and pretended that Ho Chi Minh was in the audience.
Daftness was the theme of Bridget Christie’s act. Her inflatable costume and huge donkey ears are hilarious and Christie uses them in a show which is deliberately and endearingly shambolic - certain themes are pursued and forgotten about. You’ve never seen - or heard - anything like the show’s ending.
Endearingly shambolic may be a bit harsh to describe Rodney Bewes but his show could never be described as slick and polished and you really warmed to him for that.
I was one of about 20 people in a grim lecture hall watching him read Dylan Thomas stories, largely read in an English accent and mostly in a monotone that reminded me of an auctioneer. Bewes occasionally had to consult his script and often stepped forward for asides to the audience. He shouted ‘Bravo!’ at the end of each story and regularly plugged his programmes which he promised to sign, describing himself as a sixties icon.
There were times when he didn’t do justice to the stories but he was always interesting to watch. Next show should be Rodney Bewes: My Story.
Ben Verth is a warm and engaging comic who bases an hour-long show, Alsatian and Chips, on what he was doing on significant days in his life (10,000th day, 5,000th day for example). It’s a great idea and he gets plenty of laughs with his routine on Dr Who fandom, for example.
It’s reminiscent something Daniel Kitson would do, although Verth’s show needed to be shorter and tighter and some material, related to the show’s title for instance, was thrown away.
But he was better than most of the identikit, slick young things on BBC3’s Edinburgh show, some of whom looked as though they were getting TV exposure after only their third or fourth gig.
The highlight of Best of the Fest was Otto Kuhnle, a German fella who looks a bit like Jacques Tati and reminded me of Tommy Cooper with his silly tricks and bagpipe impressions.
Translunar Paradise was one of those shows I only see at the Fringe – a play with mime and masks about death and loneliness. Technically good but a bit mannered for my taste and I couldn’t understand what some of the mimes were about.
STEWART LEE: at Sheffield Lyceum
Like a magician who reveals his tricks, I thought Lee’s book (How I Escaped My Certain Fate) about his stand-up routines and the fact and fiction in them would lessen the impact of future shows.
Not at all – it makes him even more intriguing.
For example, the show was being filmed and we were told if we nipped out while he was on, we wouldn’t be allowed back in. Lee started a tale about his dad the cardboard salesman and a woman walked out. He used her exit in his patter, dropping the story about his dad, and the woman came back in 30 seconds later.
Was she a plant? Did his dad really sell cardboard?
Lee later explained that certain bits of the show were true and some made up. But even then you were in doubt.
He kept reviewing parts of the show and never made it easy for himself – ‘grumpily’ and ‘patronisingly’ spurning new fans, ‘agonising’ over easy laughs, saying the show was ‘about nothing’, avoiding easy laughs in a politics section with daft references to Scooby Doo, mocking the trendy young comedians – (the Russells - I think he was really mocking them).
There were shades of Daniel Kitson in the way he almost apologised for cheap gags and easy laughs and Ted Chippington in the way he occasionally spoke in a monotone.
According to Lee, people in the stalls were his real fans while people in the balconies only came because he was on TV. Another clever move which made the stallees feel good and the balconites wishing they were in with the in crowd.
All this works because he has great presence and calm authority – something I particularly remember when I first saw him 20 years ago – as well as superb timing and delivery, and a hilarious, deadpan face. He may be desperate to escape the ‘traditional’ ways of making people laugh but he uses all the techniques of the great comedians.
Apr 11: Billed as a tribute to 50 years of Coronation Street, this is a very funny piss-take of the show by one of its writers, Jonathan Harvey.
The play is centred on Ken and Gail and their disastrous love lives - recurring themes throughout the show's history - and features regular appearances from Corrie greats Ena, Elsie, Hilda, Bet and Raquel.
A cast of five perform 55 characters at breakneck speed and there are some wonderful impressions - Gail's bobbling head and her reassurance to the audience that her latest fella (usually a psycho) is a good bloke, Ken's knack of streeeetching his vowels when he's angry or stressed, and Steve McDonald identified quickly as the bloke who rocks back and forth.
Most of the storylines and chunks of plot are from pre-2000 with some stories condensed into a few words or in case of the recent factory fire - a ballet.
The sets are wonderful too - a curtain with a drawing of a tram knocks down Alan Bradley, while Stephanie Beacham's character sails across the stage in a full-sized cardboard barge.
Inevitably, with so much to cover, some favourite characters are absent - so no Albert Tatlock, Curly, Reg, Mavis, Derek or Betty Turpin.
But it's wonderful stuff and well worth seeing, even if you haven't watched the show for years. In fact it's so good I've started watching Corrie again.
KEVIN MCALEER'S OWLS ROUTINE
Apr 11: One of the funniest and most original routines I've ever seen was by Kevin McAleer in Edinburgh in the mid-80s - a deadpan comic with a daft slideshow who left huge pauses so you never knew what was coming next.
He's reviving his owls routine in London next month in a 'celebration of alternative comedy of 30 years ago' organised by Stewart Lee (his book reminded me of McAleer).
I saw McAleer in a triple bill with Oscar McLennan, whose act was like something out of a Samuel Beckett play - slightly sinister, full of pauses (again), but absolutely enthralling. Plus Simon Fanshawe - a manic and more conventional comic.
McAleer is back touring again after a stint as a bus driver. He’ll be reviving his owls routine at the At Last The 1981 Show on May 29. A celebration of the alternative comedy of 30 years ago curated by Stewart Lee and Paul Jackson at the Royal Festival Hall featuring Nigel Planer, The Oblivion Boys, Norman Lovett, Alexei Sayle, Arnold Brown, The Frank Chickens and others
CORNY JOKES (FROM THE WORD WEBSITE)
I just got a job at a zoo feeding the polar bears. I always inject them with a local anaesthetic before I go into their enclosure. I find that there's safety in numb bears.
Friend of mine worked in a helium factory.
His colleagues spoke highly of him.
Packet of Skittles walked into a bar and says, "I'm the hardest packet of sweets in town. I could have any other packet of sweets in a fight; get me a pint NOW!"
With that, a packet of Hall's eucalyptus sweets walks in, and the packet of Skittles hides behind a chair.
The packet of Hall's sweets orders a pint, drinks it, and walks out, while all the time the packet of Skittles hides behind the chair.
When the packet of Hall's leaves, the barman turns to the packet of Skittles and says, "What was all that about? I thought you said you were the hardest packet of sweets in town?"
"Yeah," replies the packet of Skittles, "But I'm not messing with him; he's menthol."
Why did the scarecrow get the MBE?
He was out standing in his field.
Two Cockney cowboys in the desert. One says to the other "bleedin 'ell mate, I'm starvin! Where can I get some grub round 'ere?"
His pal replies "if you go abaht 2 miles up that way you'll find a bacon tree, grab us a few rashers off the branches an' we'll 'ave a nice fry-up".
Half an hour later the first cowboy returns in a bedraggled state with and arrow in his hat and covered in blood. He looks at his pal and shouts,
"Flippin 'eck you prune, that weren't a bacon tree up there, that was an AMBUSH!"
A chicken walks into a library, walks up to the librarian and says "Bkk!" so the librarian gives the chicken a book.
The chicken goes to the library the next day, walks up to the librarian and says "Bkk! Bkk!" so the librarian gives the chicken two books.
The chicken goes to the library the day after, too, walks up to the librarian and says "Bkk! Bkk! Bkk!" so the librarian gives the chicken three books.
Intrigued by the chicken, the librarian decides to follow him. She follows the chicken through the town centre to the park and there, at the edge of the lake, she sees the chicken handing books to a frog.
The frog looks at each book in turn before tossing it aside and saying "Reddit! Reddit!"
The world-renowned expert on wasps, their habitat and the sound they make was passing a second hand record shop and on display, in the window, was an old vinyl record entitled ‘The World’s Wasps And The Sound They Make’.
Intrigued he went inside and enquired about the record. The record shop owner asked if he would like to hear a track off the record. ‘Certainly’ said the Prof.
The shop owner put on track 1.
The Prof listened to the track intently and shook his head, ’I am sorry but I don’t recognise any of those wasps at all.
So the shop owner played him track 2, and 3, and 4, and 5.
Always with the same answer’ I just don’t recognise any of these wasps.’
The record shop owner took the disc of the turntable and exclaimed ‘ Ah!, that explains it, why you didn’t recognise any of them. I was playing the bee side.’
I was at the cash pint yesterday and an old lady asked if I wouldn't mind checking her balance - so I pushed her over
A farmer and his wife woke one winter’s morning and noticed all the cows in the field had frozen solid.
Then out of nowhere an old lady appeared over the hill, walked up to each cow and patted them. As she did so, the cows slowly started to come to life.
"Who was that?!" asked the farmer.
"I'm not sure..." said his wife, "... but I think it was Thora Hird."
LEE, PEACE, NOBBS
April 11: I've been thinking about the mechanics of comedy and writing this month, thanks to one thrilling book (Stewart Lee) and two great talks (Davids Peace and Nobbs).
Stewart Lee has written the superb How I Escaped My Certain Fate. I'm a sucker for books about what makes comedians tick and have read umpteen biographies (a lot of which appear to have been adapted for BBC4 dramas). This is the best book I've read about comedy.
Lee may look like someone who would disparage you for not knowing Biff Bang Pow B-sides in alphabetical order and his ferocious sarcasm sometimes takes your breath away, but who can blame him?
I saw him at his first Edinburgh Show in 1994. I thought he was one of the most original and fascinating comedians I'd seen - his slow pace and quiet delivery left me on tenterhooks. So it was a real shock to discover in his book that he gave up stand-up in 2001 as he was failing to make any money from his many live shows and Tv appearances.
Lee got some success from Jerry Springer the Opera (which was praised by the mainstream Catholic press) but was then scuppered by a relatively small group which takes pride in judging others.
Then he fell ill and had to undergo some rather intrusive surgery, outlined in the book and on stage.
So who can blame him for being so bitter. But he is remarkably restrained about all of this and the book is not a self-pitying rant, rather a transcript of three shows with previews of each show and footnotes so large they sometimes take up a page or more.
Tony Hancock's comic career supposedly nosedived when he started to analyse what made him funny, but Lee is such an intelligent and funny writer that his analysis really helps his comedy.
It's fascinating to learn how he chose a particular line and his comments on whether something works or not. He gives due credit to people like Simon Munnery and Ted Chippington for inspiring him and it's great to see people like Kevin McAleer and Oscar McLennan mentioned too. I saw both in the mid-80s and I've never seen anything like them before or since.
Lee is careful to point out what's true and what's not true in his act. He has a routine about Joe Pasquale using a joke invented by Michael Redmond, a deadpan moustachioed comedian, best known for being Father Stone in Father Ted (and a lovely friendly fella at my sixth and final stand-up try-out in 1986).
But interestingly, as Lee reveals in the book, he introduces the Pasquale story by slightly changing a true incident. A nurse involved in Lee's endoscopy tells him: 'You don't look like a comedian...a comedian makes you want to laugh as soon as you look at them like Joe Pasquale'. The nurse actually said Tommy Cooper but Lee writes in his footnotes: 'I didn't have a bit about Tommy Cooper'. (Routine below)
I was reminded about truth and fiction when I went to see David Peace during the Huddersfield Literature Festival. He read from his novels based on true events - the miners' strike (G84) and Leeds United and Brian Clough (The Damned United).
Like Lee, Peace repeats words and phrases to build up a rhythm. And, like Lee, his prose comes alive when read aloud.
Answering questions from festival director Michael Stewart and the audience, Peace came across as intelligent, funny and caring (about how real people are treated in his novels for example).
To sum up:
After the third of his Tokyo novels, he intends to write a novel about Harold Wilson and the Huddersfield Town team who won the league title in the 1920s and then a novel about Geoffrey Boycott.
He thought the first Red Riding TV show was better than the first Red Riding book but didn't like the portrayal of Don Revie in the film adaptation of The Damned United.
He moved back from Japan to Yorkshire because his mum was ill.
He feels publishers and agents should look beyond creative writing graduates.
Also at the excellent Literature Festival was David Nobbs. A lovely man - funny about others and himself. He started as a journalist and a misprint was in his first story.
His first gag appeared on That Was The Week That Was after he rang David Frost with an idea and Frost sent over a taxi so Nobbs could talk to him.
Nobbs, who wrote for Les Dawson among others, said Dawson was a lovely man and remembered one of his favourite routines where Dawson was immersed in a tank of water in bagpipes and a kilt - Jock Cousteau.
DAVID NOBBS STARS IN...HUDDERSFIELD LITERATURE FESTIVAL
Feb 11: A corking line-up for this year's Huddersfield Literature Festival - David Peace, Simon Armitage, AL Kennedy, Melvin Burgess and David Nobbs.
Nobbs is best known for Reggie Perrin, but also wrote for Les Dawson, Tommy Cooper and Ken Dodd, among others. He's also a terrific Tweeter.
A Bit of a Do with David Nobbs is at the Byram Arcade on March 20, 4pm £8/£6 concessions. This is a Tea Party and the price includes refreshments.
The theme of the festival this year is adaptation. There's a specially commissioned film of a Simon Armitage poem alongside his event, at Huddersfield University, Creative Arts Building, Phipps Hall, March 19, 8pm £8/£6 concessions, as well as a number of specially commissioned song adaptations from a variety of poets.
David Peace is in conversation at Huddersfield University, Creative Arts Building, Phipps Hall on March 17, 9pm £8/£6 concessions.
For other events, see Lit Fest website
At last the full version of one of Les Dawson's best routines is on YouTube. A corny joke wonderfully told - great faces, great timing, great delivery, even the corpsing, which can be annoying, is funny. JOHN SHUTTLEWORTH REVIEW - HUDDERSFIELD Nov 10: I always thought John Shuttleworth was one of those comedy characters who was naturally funny, so it didn't particular matter about new material - every oof, tut, speccy squint, mention of reservoirs and two margarines was enough. Well that theory was severely tested at the Lawrence Batley Theatre, in Huddersfield. For while this was a funny night which attracted more laughs and applause than most live or TV shows, Shuttleworth's creator Graham Fellows was not firing on all cylinders and seemed to be a bit distracted at times, with the sound and with his lines, and relied too much on old material. It was a step back in time to shows of the nineties where there were more songs and speeches, no other characters (they were promised in the preview) and no overriding theme. The show was called No More Rolls, thanks to a Ken Worthington blunder - it should have been No Morals and an outline of John juggling rolls in a Blue Note jazz style was the backdrop. But apart from a mention of how the emergence of the bap had seen off the roll and 'peter bread', this theme never really took off. In a short first half of 35 minutes, John was just warming up when the interval came. There had been a couple of awkward pauses and Austin Ambassador, an encore song, unusually appeared in the first half as though he was trying to get the audience going (he didn't have to, they loved it). The phone conversations with Mary and Ken didn't really work - too loud and slightly out of time. This was still an enjoyable night - the mention of how Vim was hidden so children wouldn't confuse it with a kaleidoscope was a highlight. But it could have done with an appearance from Goole builder Dave to break things up. It's still early in the tour so perhaps Graham is feeling his way a bit with the show or likes to shake it up a bit every night. But for people who give a laugh of recognition when they hear the phrases Dronfield by-pass and Oughterbridge Library, perhaps he should have been a little more adventurous in Huddersfield. OOOFF! JOHN SHUTTLEWORTH'S NEW TOUR Jul 10: A Man With No More Rolls is coming to Huddersfield (Lawrence Batley, November 15), Wakefield (Theatre Royal, November 17), Manchester (Dancehouse, November 26/27), Barnsley Civic (December 11). There's a tryout in York City Screen on October 27 and a gig in Sheffield next March. Here'a a preview of his show: John decides it's time to instruct the nation in moral matters. Well, he would have done, if next door neighbour and sole agent Ken Worthington hadn’t mistyped the show's title, turning 'morals' into 'more rolls'. John's reaction to this mishap is philosophical. At least now his new show won't consider the nation's moral decline, but the vast range of exotic breads appearing in the high street, as the humble roll fades into obscurity. Paninis, ciabattas, pittas, plus the peshwari naan which John recently enjoyed a bite of ("It absolutely blew me away"), inspiring his exciting new ballad: How's your nan? "How's your nan? How's your nan?" is more pressing a question than Finding out about the state of an unleavened bread - that's what said "How's your nan? How's your nan?" Better find out while you can Go and see her before you hear she's dead! Also, in Get the Volvo,Val, John will re-examine the tragic 'moral' tale of Eric Blackburn ("no relation to the DJ") who crashed his hang glider 15 years ago on the Derbyshire moors. As well as these and other new songs, expect old favourites like 2 Margarines, Eggs and Gammon, and I Can't Go Back To Savoury Now hammered out on John's trusty Yamaha keyboard. Also, special guests - the concreter from Goole, Dave Tordoff and misanthropic Midlands media lecturer, Brian Appleton. FRANK SIDEBOTTOM/CHRIS SIEVEY RIP Jun 10: It was a real shock to hear of Chris Sievey/Frank Sidebottom's death. He was a truly original and funny comedian. Until a few days ago, he was sounding quite chipper on Twitter about his cancer. The first lot of treatment was going well and he was planning gigs and Timperley tours as he marked 25 years as a 'semi-professional' performer. But over the past few days he complained about feeling poorly and on June 21 he collapsed at home and died shortly afterwards. He was 54. I first saw Frank about 20 years at the St Helens Citadel, funnily enough about the time of another World Cup, and Frank had produced a Roger Milla puppet in honour of the Cameroon star of the 1990 tournament. Frank was one of those comedians, like John Shuttleworth and Ted Chippington, who was deliberately amateurish and shambolic. If you found this funny, then almost everything he did was funny and his regular songs and catchphrases never became tiresome. Of course, if you found this irritating, you'd never get him. I think he particularly appealed to a northern sense of humour with his silliness. His LPs and TV shows were patchy but he was at best live. He had the ability to reduce every song, from I Should Be So Lucky to Anarchy in the UK, to some knock-kneed cheesy pub singalong. Then there was his use and abuse of his puppet Little Frank, his honking Manchester voice, the way he ended every song with 'You know it did, it really did', his hands-on-hips poses and his fibreglass head - like an overgrown schoolboy with his hair combed by his mum. And there were also the football and Timperley references - Wild Thing In Timperley, Timperley Sunset, Born In Timperley, Je T'aime Wild Thing In Timperley, Last Train To Timperley, Timperley 909 1909, Oh Timperley and this one, Mull of Timperley: There's a campaign to get Frank's new World Cup song Three Shirts On My Line to number one. Yes! (From one of his last performances) A fundraising campaign to pay for his funeral raised over £20 grand. It will also help pay for Frank's Fantastic Send-off' which is at Castlefield Arena, Manchester, on July 8, from 7pm. Videos, guests, tears and laughter promised. RIP Frank/Chris THE FUNNIEST THING EVER? Jun 10: I've always loved Beaker from the Muppets - the boggly eyes and expression of panic - but I've never heard him sing. But here he is with two of my other favourite Muppets, Swedish Chef and Animal. Beaker's sideward glances and squeeking are hilarious. SAD NEWS ABOUT FRANK SIDEBOTTOM AND THE LANCASHIRE HOTPOTS May 10: Is it wrong to smile about someone's name even when they've died? Willie Eckerslike of the Lancashire Hotpots has passed away suddenly. I'm sorry, it's such a great name and the drummer's brought a lot of pleasure with his band. His real name was Tom McGrath. RIP Tom. It's not quite so serious for Frank, although he has got cancer - a tumour in his chest. He told the Manchester Evening News, in character as Frank: "I am OK and I am going to be OK. It is just bobbins. I have had worse. I had a cold over Christmas and that was worse. "I have not seen any photos of the tumour but it has got smooth hair like me." He'll get better, you know he will, he really will. PS Frank has painted a picture of himself bald/post-chemo to raise money for cancer charities. Bald Frank BRIAN GLOVER AND OTHER GREAT WRESTLERS Mar 10: The news that Sheffield United used the football match from Kes as a team-bonding exercise reminded me what a great comic actor Brian Glover was. He had a hard man's face, but you could never take him seriously because his features were so mobile. He also had a honking Yorkshire voice, like a Dalek from Barnsley. But he was also a great physical comedian. Before he became an actor, he was wrestler Leon Arris, 'the man from Paris', something I discovered on the two superb Best of ITV Wrestling DVDs. 'Arris' takes on Les Kellet, another comic Yorkshire wrestler but, according to his contemporaries, a genuine hardman. He's got an unwavering stare. You wouldn't mess with him. Other treats on the DVds are Mick McManus - Max Wall with boot polish hair - and Giant Haystacks, lolling in the corner, scowling at the audience and squashing opponents. BRILLIANT IMPRESSIONIST 1 Feb 10: Only 15 months after it first appeared on YouTube I've discovered Darren Farley, who does fantastic impressions of Rafa Benitez, Stevie Gerrard, Jamie Carragher and Michael Owen. You don't have to like football to find them funny. BRILLIANT IMPRESSIONIST 2 Feb 10: Another Liverpool connection, Peter Serafinowicz's take on The Beatles. His new DVD's just out but he's a joy on Twitter, coming up with jokes from people's suggestions: French slang for drug addict: Craque Monsieur. Just got a checkbook from my sperm bank, but the pages are all stuck together Psychopath (n): the walkway leading to Anthony Perkins' house I only ever drink champagne made by orphans in an orphanage: Orphagne Online playing World of Woodcraft. Making some level 3 bookends.
DON'T LET THE FAUNTLEROYS BACK IN! Jan 10: An amusing site has been set up spoofing David Cameron's earnest and pompous billboard ads. SuperDave has had an easy ride so far - most of the media swallowing his line about public service cuts being the only way to reduce the 'huge debt', with scant mention of the City who got us into this mess in the first place. (Incidentally when did Britain have a small debt? We've only just paid off our WW2 loan to the Yanks!) You get the feeling the Tories are desperate to hack away at vital public services, decentralise and leave a lot of government to private companies, forgetting it was government that saved the economy by stabilising the banks. You also get the feeling some of the public, especially the 'not interested in politics' morons, think it's an X Factor contest and Gordon shouldn't win for being grouchy and awkward in public. DANIEL KITSON - A COMEDY GREAT Nov 09: Frankie Howerd’s pals used to say that because of the way he looked and acted, he couldn’t have been anything else but a comedian. You could say the same thing about Daniel Kitson. Both have wonderful, expressive faces, great delivery and timing, and Daniel, like Frankie, deserves to be regarded as one of our greatest comedians. As Daniel admits in his new show We Are Gathered Here, which I saw at Manchester’s Royal Exchange, he’s never had a 9-5 office job. He’s only 32 but he must have been performing at least half his life. After leaving Shelley College, near Huddersfield, he went to study drama at university. Unlike Frankie, however, Daniel’s shows cover a wide range of subjects from intense meaning-of-life philosophising to throwaway gags about pooing. The theme of this show is death, in particular the deaths of his aunt and his great aunt, but like previous shows I’ve seen, It’s The Fireworks Talking and The Impotent Fury of the Privileged, it wheels off into all sorts of topics, from stuffing your face with cake to the beauty of everyday objects. Death’s a risky theme for a comedy show – too serious and it becomes a lecture, too jokey and it’s flippant and distasteful. Daniel gets it just right. A section about cheering up his dying great aunt in her hospital bed is leavened with the admission that he strutted out of the ward because he felt he’d conquered ‘a tough gig’. This bigging up then mocking himself is a key part of what makes Daniel such a likeable character and good comic. His hilarious confessions about his gluttony, fear of the dark and his family make the more serious parts of the show - about how we’ll be remembered when we’re gone and what is important to us - so compelling. His winning personality also lifts the observational stuff – longing to be a pub quiz expert but only getting 7/10 on his specialist subject Daniel Kitson – beyond the usual rat-a-rat of the nice but bland Michael McIntyre-types. And you know Daniel’s got soul, unlike nasty RoboMonkhouse Jimmy Carr. Daniel’s got passion and unflinching honesty - confessing to wanking in his face twice and once in a fire (only one was deliberate) or how eating ice cream in Scarborough reminds him of his late aunt. For a man who doesn’t seem to do interviews anymore, perhaps to preserve his privacy, he doesn’t appear to hold anything back. He’s got three shows on the go at the moment but still no DVDs. Meanwhile his nemesis Peter Kay (who calls Daniel a bastard on the commentary to Phoenix Nights) is churning out DVDs of ever diminishing quality. I went right off Kay when one of his security goons accused me of filming a Kay gig I was at in Sheffield and wouldn’t let me in until my mates kicked up a stink with the management. I know which side I’m on. Carry on Daniel. Here's a rare video clip Here's his website NEW REAL ALE TWATS! Oct 09: Tankards of Dunkerton's Owld Hen Dancer all round! Taken from norbet1's Flickr site and also, of course, originally in Viz. For more Real Ale Twats, see below. Click here to see full size
HITLER'S REACTION TO OASIS SPLIT Sept 09:Another Downfall spoof, but one of the best. COMIC STRIP Jun 09: I'm on a bit of a nostalgia trip with box sets at the moment. After Absolutely it's the Comic Strip - another programme that I was desperate to like in the eighties, but now I find it's even patchier than Absolutely. Out of 39 episodes, made between 1982 and 1993 (plus one each from 1998 and 2000), only a handful are worth watching again - Five Go Mad in Dorset, Bad News Tour, Dirty Movie, A Fistful of Travellers' Cheques, Eddie Monsoon, The Strike, South Atlantic Raiders and GLC. Although well-acted by a likeable cast and beautifully shot, the scripts just aren't funny enough and when they do try to do drama, it's forgettable. Their most famous episode, Five Go Mad, has lost some of its shock value (Famous Five with sexual overtones, gasp) that it had when it was first broadcast, so spaghetti western spoof A Fistful of Travellers' Cheques is the most consistently funny episode now. I used to think Rik Mayall was the funniest but he rarely takes a main part and it's Ade Edmondson who steals the shows for me. Dawn French is astonishingly beautiful. "I'm a matador" from A Fistful of Travellers' Cheques Bad News Tour (first part) ABSOLUTELY...PATCHY (BUT JOHN SPARKES IS STILL BRILLIANT) May 09: I bought the Absolutely box set last year and I have to admit it's been a real struggle getting through all eight discs. The genius of John Sparkes still shines and although all the other comedians are likeable and talented, the sketches are often overlong with too many irritating characters. The show ran for four series on Channel 4 from 1989 to 1993. It shared some of the wackiness of Monty Python and was definitely a forerunner of such things as The Fast Show and Catherine Tate. I mentioned John Sparkes when I first started this blog. He's a brilliant all-round comedian - superb characters, great voices, cracking timing and some great physical stuff. He should have been as big as Steve Coogan or Harry Enfield. Here are three of his best bits from the show. Denzil: based on a shed-building neighbour from Sparkes' youth (for other Denzil stuff, see John Sparkes section) Frank Hovis: Sings at Stonybridge Council's Christmas Party. Don't have any drink in your mouth when he starts singing, you'll be laughing so much it'll come out through your nose Old Man: Albert Bastard, later known as Mr Ffff in Sparkes' Barry Welsh show. Original use of the word clematis. THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (MY FIRST PUBLISHED STORY) Feb 09: I've been a journo for 20 years but I must have been writing stories, sketches and lyrics for 30 years - and now I've finally got something fictional published (yes all my journalism has been truthful, even the wrestling reviews!). My story, The Magnificent Seven, is part of Rainy City Stories. It's a website featuring established authors such as Jackie Kay and amateurs like me and is part funded by the Arts Council. Its brief is to choose a Greater Manc location and write about it. I know, it's not an actual book, but come on, I'm writing a flaming blog here so I'm not complaining! I've written kids' stories for fellow kids, cartoons about crap superheroes at school, a farce for the BBC in my mid-teen years (Richard Waring, writer of Robin's Nest, thought it was awful - he was right), lyrics in a band, sketches at uni, an episode of Dangermouse at the end of uni (they asked me to write an episode of Count Duckula - I did a Daffy Duck squashed beak story, knock back), sketches for Spitting Image also in my early 20s (they asked me to submit more sketches - but knock back), stuff for Private Eye (knock back but nice letter from Hislop), sketches for a youth theatre and umpteen short stories at creative writing classes around the country. This story is about a man who approaches another man in the Hare and Hounds pub and asks him to name the Magnificent Seven. This bit is true, the rest is fiction. The story was buzzing in my head for weeks before I knocked it off in one go late at night.